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Railroads and immigration in the northeast United States 1850-1900

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Both large-scale immigration and rapid expansion of the railroad network played major roles in the economic development of the United States during the second half of the 19th century. Although the romance of the settlement of the West has received much attention in the literature, the northeast remained the industrial powerhouse of the continent, attracting large numbers of immigrants to work in its mines, factories and mills, despite the growing ascendancy of Chicago. However, new research using the complete count US 1880 census dataset demonstrates that until the latter part of the period, the US railroad industry and its associated employment opportunities were also heavily concentrated in the northeast region. This paper examines the interrelationships between processes of immigration and railroad development, in terms of the movement of people and the availability of employment opportunities, and presents evidence that different ethnic groups participated in the railroad industry to markedly varying degrees.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)455-476
Number of pages22
JournalGeography Compass
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2012

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